Editorial introduction: American pop culture
CHUA Beng Huat and Younghan CHO
Soon after the ex-colonies of European and Japanese imperial powers in Asia began to achieve independence after the end of World War II in 1945, Asia was plunged into the Cold War. Many of the new nations were transformed into frontline states as proxy of Western liberal democracy, the so-called ‘free world’ led by the US, against the encroachment of an expanding communism, which received coverts support from Communist China and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was in fact a ‘very hot war’ in Asia. Every newly independent postcolonial nation in Southeast Asia, with the exception of Singapore, for example, fought civil/insurgency war with respective home grown communist party. In each of these instances, the US played either a covert or open role in supporting anti-communist fractions.
In China, the Chinese Communist Party (PRC) ousted the republican Kuomingtang (KMT) which decamped to the island of Taiwan in 1949. In the Korean peninsula, the early 1950s Korean War between American led allied forces and communist forces from Russia and the PRC ended with an armistice that divided the nation into a communist north and a capitalist south; no peace treaty has been signed to formally end this conflict. Till today, the north-south Korea division and relations between the PRC and Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait remain tense, reminding all that the Cold War is not yet truly over in Asia. In Vietnam, a protracted civil war between a communist north and a capitalist south followed immediately from the defeat of the French colonial regime. The north prevailed, enabling the unification of the country under the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1973. In all these violent conflicts America, the superpower, became directly and indirectly engaged, providing financial, intelligence and military support to the capitalist side of the conflict. The struggles of the non communist Southeast Asian nations—Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore—to establish political and economic sovereignty, economic development and national identity for their respective people open themselves to the financial aid and political and security influence from the US. America, the postwar leader of the non communist world, became progressively a pervasive and influential force, replacing the defeated colonial European powers in the region.
Chua Beng Huatis Research Leader, Cultural Studies in Asia Research Cluster, Asia Research Institute; Convenor Cultural Studies Programmes and Head, the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore. His publications include: as author,Life is Not Complete without Shoppingand, as editor,Elections as Popular Culture in Asia, (Co-editor, Chen Kuan-Hsing)Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Reader, (Co-editor, Koichi Iwabuchi)East Asia Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave (2008).
Younghan Cho is an assistant professor in Graduate School of International and Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea. He received his Ph.D. degree in Communication Studies from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Asia Research Institute at National University of Singapore. His research interests include media and cultural studies, global sports and nationalism, and Internet ethnography in Asian contexts. His papers have appeared in numerous journals, including Inter-Asia Cultural Studies(2008), Media, Culture & Society(2009), Sociology of Sport Journal(2009) and Cultural Studies(2011).